Road Trip Itinerary: from Los Angeles to San Diego

When I go to another country, I don’t just visit the main cities on my itinerary. I also travel to nearby areas to get the most out of my trip, especially in the United States.

I recommend the road trip from Los Angeles to San Diego in this blog. Since the journey to go to San Diego only takes two hours of driving, you will think there is not much to do or visit, but the truth is that this best route can enrich your trip.

Los Angeles to San Diego Drive, Road Trip Itinerary

When you think of road trips in the country, you may have read recommendations from Los Angeles and San Francisco. But the route from Los Angeles to San Diego offers sand dunes, impeccable coastal routes, and less crowded locations!

Take a piece of paper from your notepad or your San Diego road trip planner on your cell phone and a pencil for taking notes. Here are a few stops you can make!

Where to Rent a Car from Los Angeles to San Diego?

Los Angeles Route - San Diego by car rental

This route is not recommended if you go by bus or train because the drivers stop to pick up passengers but not at restaurants or bathrooms.

If you are considering traveling from Los Angeles to San Diego via public transport or from the airport, you can book your bus, train, and flight tickets here! You can reserve one way flights from different airlines and round trip rail and bus passes at the Union Station.

An ideal way to rent a car is to go to a rental website like Rentalcars or Autoeurope to take advantage of your road trip.

Are you looking to rent an RV for your trip? Check this link for more information and save money!

An RV is a comparator type of car rental, where you can choose the one that best suits you depending on your needs and budget. In addition, it accepts online payments with numerous credit cards.

Now, let’s start:

  • If you like coffee, I recommend you go to Starbucks, Tilt Coffee Bar, or Take Cake 5 because there’s nothing better than a typical American coffee shop to start the day off on this Route.
a coffee shop packed with customers

Note: You can find the link to the map with each place you should go to at the end of this blog.

Santa Monica and More

  • Make Santa Monica the first stop. The great place has the beach city par excellence, street art, and shopping.

Even more tempting is the fact that it has the best places and state parks like the famous Santa Monica Pier, a former fairground (Pacific Park), a boardwalk (Ocean Drive), two beautiful beaches (Venice Beach and Muscle Beach), and a well-known shopping street (Third Street Promenade).

The country has several national parks you can check out and take this opportunity to visit. I always love taking a short walk, and going for a stroll at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is one of the best experiences you can get.

You can take the scenic route and a short drive with a classic 1972 VW camper van with the best views of the Santa Monica Mountains. 

If you have a little time for the trip, Reserve your VW camper van ride here!

A day trip or two would be perfect for visiting and enjoying this city, but if you have some extra time, take a walk through the harbor and amusement park and have the best time.

Do you want to do a guided tour? Check it out here!

Santa Monica Beach View

The Best Things to Do in Anaheim

Anaheim is a must-include city in your trip. The theme park city is located just outside Los Angeles and Southern California. 

If you have a full day off, you can stop by three Disney theme parks: Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and Disneyland Drive. You can also stay a week or a couple of days and visit as many attractions as possible.

Third, you can visit the Battleship USS Iowa Museum, a maritime museum located in St. Peter’s Harbor. You can book your tickets to the museum here!

This ship was used during World War II, the Korean War, and the Cold War. Because of all these trips, they turned it into a museum, a location to add to your enjoyable trip.

A Mickey Mouse Ferriswheel

Doheny State Beach

While some turn to Orange County and choose to stop by Laguna beach, Newport beach, or Huntington beach, I went a little further and headed to Doheny beach.

Doheny State Beach is known as the cleanest and most quiet beach. An awesome way to enjoy the beach is to get a good rest, stretch your legs a little, and walk barefoot on the sand.

If you are only at the beach for a quick photoshoot, wear a pair of shoes perfect for the dunes and comfortable for driving. Get it here!

You can find supermarkets if you need groceries for your trip, like Smart & Final Extra, which is just five minutes away.

I usually take the opportunity to buy things I left at home on the previous trip or that just didn’t fit in my luggage; a brush, some toothpaste, and sunscreen are always needed.

Doheny State Beach

San Diego Travel Guide

  • You can visit more beaches like Moonlight State Beach, which is a 40-minute drive, and take advantage of snacks in restaurants like Honey’s Bistro and Bakery or Surf Brothers Teriyaki and Catering.
  • After satisfying your appetite, you can head to the San Diego Botanic Garden, where the following are located: collections of plants from around the world, 30 themed gardens, and even plants that are used for medicine, food processing, clothing, and construction. Please note that it is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
  • The fourth place on your tour will be the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial, a memorial that pays homage to the veterans alive or deceased in wars where you can appreciate the plates of all these men who gave their lives for the nation and you can even capture a spectacular photo with a drone if you want.
  • Before completing this journey, going to La Jolla, nearby San Diego, is like visiting a different world. It is ideal for surfing, snorkeling, paddling, or diving with the sea inhabitants and making a campfire at the end of the day. Sounds very tempting, doesn’t it? Have the best experience of first-time snorkeling with a guided snorkeling tour. Book your guide here!
  • In the end, when arriving in San Diego, you can try a dessert in places like Donut Bar, Extraordinary Desserts, or, if you are vegan, in restaurants like Evolution.
a green house surrounded by palm trees and flowers

If you’re worried that your rented vehicle will run out of gas, rest easy; for the U.S., the roads are never long enough to need gas stations.

You will have at least five gas stations near the car park at the mentioned stops.

As you realize in this post, even short road trips can become very amazing. In this way, you will know places unknown to most tourists but great for taking a walk, eating, and even taking pictures.

Map route Los Angeles to San Diego

The full route in this link

Finally, I leave you a list of gas stations, restaurants, parking lots, and supermarkets to go to on the way.

Gas stations Restaurants Parking lots Supermarkets
Thrifty Gas
Sushi Gen
Jerry’s Tacos
Guichos Eatery
Lobster West
Great Maple
Tapas & Beers
Lot 663
Toy Story Parking Area
Parking P.Q
Downtown Parking
Long Term
Target Grocery
San Marcos Market
Lazy Acres
Dakpanan Sila

Travel Insurance

Remember to get your travel insurance before you go on a road trip from Los Angeles to San Diego. Hopefully, you will never have to use it for emergencies, but it is always better to be prepared. 

Visit Heymondo to get the right travel insurance fit for your needs and budget. Plus, you get a 5% discount through this link.

I hope this post will be of great help in your next adventure. In addition to enjoying every corner programmed on your itinerary, you can discover small, local places on each tour.

How Far is San Diego from Los Angeles?

The distance between Los Angeles and San Diego is 118 miles. It also takes less than 2 hours, but remember that this estimate is a non stop journey without traffic and stopovers.

With our trip, it took us almost 4 hours! We had to stop by those fantastic views and hidden gems in our Los Angeles to San Diego road trip.

What is the Best Time to Drive from LA to San Diego?

Before heading out for the drive, we searched for the best time to avoid the Los Angeles traffic. Start your drive time from 10:30 AM to 11:00 PM. The morning rush hour ends at 10:00 AM.

Another time to consider is your arrival in San Diego. We were so ecstatic with Los Angeles to San Diego that we almost arrived during the afternoon rush hour. Plan your hours properly to avoid the afternoon traffic from 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM.

Where to Stay in San Diego?

Plan Your Trip To the United States

For Your Pinterest

From LA to San Diego California

Last Updated on 25 October, 2023 by Veronica

Disclosure: Some of the links on this post are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Author: Veronica

Vero, a seasoned traveler, has explored 25 countries and lived in five, gaining a rich perspective and fostering an infectious passion for travel. With a heart full of wanderlust, Vero uncovers the world’s hidden gems and shares insights, tips, and planning advice to inspire and assist fellow adventurers. Join Vero and let the shared passion for travel create unforgettable memories.


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